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Revival of the small bookstore

Posted: November 13, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: November 13, 2013 2:00 a.m.
$10 or Less Bookstore store manager Jesse Maule poses at the Valencia store. $10 or Less Bookstore store manager Jesse Maule poses at the Valencia store.
$10 or Less Bookstore store manager Jesse Maule poses at the Valencia store.

In a classic case of what goes around comes around, the small independent bookstore may be making a comeback – at least in Santa Clarita.

The $10 or Less Bookstore opened recently on Town Center Drive which is the third store of its kind for owner Michelle Schwabe.

Books are still a profitable business but you have to know shipping and distribution, Schwabe said.

After a grueling economic cycle in which big brick and mortar book stores pushed the small independent book stores out of business, only to find themselves under assault from online sales and e-readers, sales at indie book stores may be on the rise.

Sales grew 8 percent in 2012, according to the American Booksellers Association. The group expects sales to hit similar marks this year as well.

Schwabe attributes the success of her growing number of small book stores to readers who still like to browse the selection physically. The company deals direct with the publishers so that they can keep their prices low.

“I think there’s a big segment of our population still wants the tactile feel vs. electronic segment,” she said. “Also, I think the key factor is you’re going to get the books under $10 and you’re also getting a great variety.”

While the $10 or Less Bookstore carries new titles along with old favorites and all types of genres, making it a mini version of the big chain stores, she said. It also sells books for children.

“Eighty percent of households have children under the age 10,” Schwabe said.

The company also feels it opened locally in a very good location and it has already been contacted by the property owner with a deal to remain in place for 20 years, she said.

Before opening brick and mortar stores, Schwabe and her husband, co-owner of the business, started out by selling books online.

“We’ve been in the industry for many years and do a lot of online sales, but we were also sitting on a lot of inventory. Online sales are not really predictable,” she said. “So we decided to open a store. It seemed to work so why not, we have the inventory to do so.”

Today the $10 or Less Bookstore has a large warehouse at its corporate office in Simi Valley, where the couple also opened their first bookstore in 2005. Next came the Northridge store and last month, Valencia. The growing company has 28 employees in total.

Aside from the Simi Valley store, the average size of Schwabe new stores is 4,000 square feet which helps to keep overhead expenses reasonable, she said. Keeping overhead down size-wise allows the company to buck the trends of opening stores rather than closing them, she said.

Now that orders from Amazon are taxed, which helped to level the playing field a little for the brick and mortar business owners, Schwabe said their bookstores have more leverage than the online retailers because “it’s all about the price point.”

The bookstore keeps its prices lower and shoppers don’t have to pay shipping and taxes, she said.

“Anchoring in the community these days and connecting with the community will help us be successful.”


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